Rising Ghana prospect Samuel Takyi couldn’t have asked for a better weekend.
Last Saturday, the Olympic bronze medalist moved to 2-0 (2 KOs) as a pro with a second-round KO of South Africa’s Mandlenkosi Sibuso at the Emperors Palace in Johannesburg.
Takyi was simply too much for the overmatched Sibuso (4-2, 1 KO), driving him to the canvas in the first round and then again in the second which forced Sibuso’s corner to mercifully throw in the towel. Here are my takeaways from Takyi’s latest performance:
Takyi oozes star potential. Just as he was unfazed by facing international competition at the Tokyo Games despite little amateur experience, Takyi was unbothered by traveling to enemy land to face an opponent fighting on home soil. On the contrary, the 21-year-old embraced the moment, playing to the crowd as he confidently strode toward the ring.
It certainly helps that the young talent has been taken under the wing of Ghana boxing legend Ike “Bazooka” Quartey, who now serves as his trainer and promoter. As a fighter, Quartey was never one to shy from the big stage, an approach he has carried with him outside the ring as well, where he isn’t afraid to speak his mind and be the loudest voice in the room. It’s a trait all the greats possess. And one that could take Takyi far.
Takyi is blessed with size, strength, good hand speed and power in both fists. Yet none of those can be considered his best trait. American novelist Erica Jong once wrote, “Everyone has talent. What’s rare is the courage to follow it to the dark places where it leads.” No question, Takyi’s fearlessness is what separates him from the pack. It’s evident in the way he attacks his opponents.
That quality was apparent during the Olympics as Takyi consistently stood in the pocket and outworked his opponents with complete disregard for the incoming. This, combined with his athletic gifts, gives the Ghanaian pugilist a high ceiling. Takyi has what it takes to be a world champion. But…
More Work to be Done
Takyi’s performance on Saturday night wasn’t flawless. He reached with his punches, nearly falling over which, against a better opponent, could have led to him getting tagged with flush shots. At times, his jab was lazy. There was little head movement. And the most flagrant of all, he often threw arm punches, a characteristic not uncommon among Ghanaian fighters.
Working with Quartey could help iron out some of these issues. Others cannot be fixed without proper sparring and a technical coach – two things that are about as rare in Ghana as a stable currency. A move abroad, preferably to the United States, would be the most prudent thing Takyi’s management could do for him. Bring Quartey along too. The wise general is no stranger to the States and will help Takyi navigate those treacherous waters. But if he remains in Ghana for too long, he may find that not only do old habits die hard, they can kill you in the process.
For now, there is much to be optimistic about. Takyi is proving that his Olympic performance was no fluke. Should he stay the course, stay in the gym and just stay focused, the future is bright.